This is the time of year when umbrellas see a lot of service. And then I get letters like one just in from Ben Eckerson.

Ben thinks I ought to worry less about the perversity of inanimate objects and worry more about the perversity of people who carry umbrellas the way a Bengal Lancer carries a lance. In the hands of a passenger boarding a bus, an umbrella is especially likely to become a lethal weapon.

"Some people board buses with their umbrellas thrust forward," Ben notes. "This is an effective way to clear a path," albeit a little hard on innocent people who happen to be in the immediate vicinity. Other bus riders carry umbrellas under their arms, with the tip pointing to the back, "out of the owner's sight and apparently also out of his consciousness. As the newcomer turns in the aisle to hunt for an empty seat, the tip of his umbrella is at eye level for those already seated."

If the Bengal Lancer finds a seat, the lives of those near him remain in jeopardy until the umbrella is safely stowed away. If he doesn't find a seat and must remain standing in the aisle, there will always be a human face just beyond that metal tip of his umbrella. Each time the bus hits a pothole and the Bengal Lancer sways, a seated passenger will have to maintain a cross-eyed alert to avoid the looming metal rod. It is not a happy situation.

"What is a proper defense?" Ben asks. "A karate chop to the umbrella?"

I guess so, Ben. There's no use saying, "Excuse me for hitting the tip of your umbrella with my eye." Sarcasm would be lost on a person who doesn't realize that he's an accident going someplace to happen.